Hasty agenda changes, a last-minute "walk-on" item and fears for Plainfield's future sports prowess marked the final meeting for the losing slate in the April 19 school board election.
Outgoing Board President Wilma Campbell was absent due to a family medical emergency. Board Secretary Craig Smith read resolutions honoring Campbell, Frederick Moore Sr. and Deborah Clarke for their service. Moore and Clarke also received plaques and gifts Tuesday.
Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles said the agenda, which was posted Sunday, had been changed to include only routine business.
"Our goal is to be transparent," she said, announcing that all Human Resource and Finance items were being pulled. They will be taken up and voted on by the board after it reorganizes with new members Carmencita Pile, Dorien Hurtt and Lynn Anderson on May 3.
In privilege of the floor, Terri Slaughter-Cabbell referred to state law on school board reorganizations and told members, "Technically, you have no business being here."
She said the new members should have been sworn in Tuesday.
David Graves challenged board attorney Lisa Fittipaldi on the issue, but she replied that the reorganization could take place in the first or second week following the election.
Graves also asked what the process was for getting the board meetings on public television. Belin-Pyles said the district is in the process and will have a cable station up by June 30 to air board meetings and district events.
Inez Durham raised questions about charter schools, saying many had opened over the last 12 years, though some had closed. She said there are currently five, with two more expected in the next school year. Saying the superintendent must forward a recommendation to the state Commissioner of Education by March 20 for charter schools opening in the fall, she first asked Smith how she could get records of recommendations over the past 12 years. Smith said he had only been with the district for a few months and suggested filing an OPRA request for the information.
Belin-Pyles said she "absolutely" had submitted letters to the state commissioner in opposition to new charter schools.
Durham had wanted to ask the board president about her stance on charter schools, but Moore as vice president said he had only been on the board three years and referred Durham to Campbell, who was absent.
Several speakers raised questions about a lack of preparation of athletes at the middle school level, which they said ends up harming the proficiency of high school teams and thus endangering the district's legacy of outstanding athletes. Bernal Harrison, Darren Salter and others described their volunteer work with young athletes and challenged the board to take action.
There was a "walk-on" item that only board members saw until Slaughter-Cabbell and others demanded that copies be given to the public. Business Administrator Gary Ottmann got copies made and the item turned out to be a trip for eight boys and eight girls to attend the 2016 Penn Relays along with four chaperones at a cost of $5,051.25. The dates were April 27 through April 30.
In case you are a sports illiterate like me, here is the online description:
Actually, even I have heard of this event. Not sure why the approval had to be so last-minute.
While awaiting the copies, Moore invited mayor Adrian O. Mapp to speak. Mapp and many members of the Democratic City Committee were present, perhaps in support of the winning school board slate. Mapp spoke briefly about hopes to form a partnership between Plainfield's two biggest entities, which are the district and city government.
The meeting was adjourned soon after the board approved the walk-on item.
Pile, Hurtt and Anderson will be sworn in on May 3 and new officers will be chosen by the board.